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Justice

Argentina tries pilots for crimes against humanity

A trial has begun in Buenos Aires aimed at rectifying crimes committed by the country's military dictatorship. The court is to probe a group of pilots and a naval school for torturing and killing political opponents.

The country's largest trial probing crimes committed during the military junta from 1976 to 1983 began on Wednesday in Argentina's capital city. The legal proceedings are to focus on two major cases of human rights abuses.

The breadth of charges and number of victims appeared to set a precedent in legal investigations into crimes committed by the military dictatorship more than three decades ago, according to a rights attorney speaking to the news agency AFP.

"[The trial] was, is and will be the largest trial of crimes against humanity," in Argentina, rights lawyer Rodolfo Yanzon told AFP.

The court began its questioning of cases that involved some 800 instances of human rights violations. Almost 70 suspects have been scheduled to be tried before the court.

Prosecutors have brought charges against a group of pilots who allegedly disposed of political opponents during so-called "death flights" over the Rio de la Plata - the large estuary that lies between Argentina and Uruguay.

Cases of torture at Argentina's ESMA Naval Mechanics School have also been incorporated into the trial. There, some 5,000 political prisoners were reportedly tortured and killed. Like many of the victims of the military junta, they "disappeared" from society.

As many as 900 witnesses are scheduled to testify in the 2-year trial.

An estimated 30,000 people died during Argentina's so-called "Dirty War." They were believed to have been kidnapped, tortured and killed by the military government.

kms/mr (AP, AFP, dpa, epd)